It is now time for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise to get into full NFL draft mode. This is a team with significant needs on both sides of the football. It's also a team pushed to the limit on the salary cap.
This means the players who come from the 2014 NFL draft will be imperative to the rebuilding process of these Steelers. It would be ideal if some good luck goes their way with their picks. Every draft we see players fall, so why not let a few of those stars fall to Pittsburgh?
Last week, we took a look at a realistic scenario for the Steelers in a full seven-round mock draft. This included a third-round pick that will likely come as a compensatory selection for losing wide receiver Mike Wallace in free agency.
This week, we change the game a little and see this draft in terms of a best-case scenario. A little luck falls their way, a few guys slide and the Steelers make a real haul.
Disclaimer: These are best-case-scenario types of picks. The odds of all of these players being available when the Steelers are picking are long. However, in terms of a hypothetical, anything is possible.
Khalil Mack, Linebacker, State University of New York at Buffalo
Of all the players in this draft class, linebacker Khalil Mack might be the one poised for the greatest rookie impact. Mack is a textbook fit for the 3-4 defense the Steelers run in the rush outside linebacker role.
Mack is likely a top-10 pick in the draft, but you never know. A few teams reach for a quarterback, and the next thing you know, Mack falls into their laps.
Mack on the strong side paired with linebacker Jarvis Jones on the other side would be a nightmare for offensive coordinators.
Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Florida State
The likelihood of Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin falling into the second round is based on the wide receiver class as a whole. As more and more underclassmen declare for the draft, someone has to slide.
Teams become enamored with speed and quickness in the open field, which could lead them to favor other wide receivers. Fortunately for the Steelers, they already have wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is as dangerous as any in the league.
This means they get a steal in Benjamin, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gets a huge target in the passing game. Benjamin's game is more like tight end Jimmy Graham's than wide receiver Randy Moss', but there's nothing wrong with that.
Loucheiz Purifoy, Cornerback, Florida
There is no doubt whatsoever the Steelers need to add a cornerback in the upcoming draft. Even if cornerback Ike Taylor returns, adding another playmaker in the secondary is key.
In what is a down cornerback class, the more experienced and polished players are going to get top priority. This means Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy slides to the Steelers in the third round.
Purifoy has as high a ceiling as any cornerback in this draft. His size is NFL-caliber, and his athleticism is elite. Being able to play a year behind a player like cornerback Ike Taylor would be just what he needs before stepping into a starting role.
Dion Bailey, Safety, USC
In every draft, there are players who slide. Oftentimes, there are prospects like USC safety Dion Bailey who slip because they are part of a deep, albeit unspectacular, group.
Bailey has moved between linebacker and safety during his time at USC, which could be perceived as a negative, causing him to drop. If the Steelers could get Bailey in the fourth, he would at minimum be an ace on special teams.
Bailey would be more of a project player at safety, but with Troy Polamalu still in the mix and safety Shamarko Thomas set to move up, there would be time to wait. Bailey's potential is significant, and he could turn out to be a really talented player.
Ja'Wuan James, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
In this scenario, Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James slides to the fifth round, which would definitely make this pick a best-case scenario.
However, it is possible. James is a very capable all-around offensive tackle, but lacks the wow factor so many teams look for.
Whether James ends up a fourth-round pick or a fifth-round pick, the Steelers would be well-served to add him to the mix. However, in a muddled offensive tackle class, a guy like James could be lost in the shuffle. James would be in the mix early to start at right tackle for the Steelers and could eventually transition to the left side.
Joe Don Duncan, Tight End, Dixie State
It might not seem like a tight end from Dixie State would be considered a best-case scenario as a sixth-round pick. Nevertheless, tight end Joe Don Duncan is a bit of a unique case. Duncan is a legitimate NFL prospect from a tiny school.
Duncan has nice size at 6'3" and 267 pounds, but his skills as a pass-catcher are what make him enticing. Duncan has active hands, excellent body control and shows excellent awareness on the field. He might be from a small school, but understand that he does not play like it.
Duncan isn't the blocker many Steelers tight ends are, but his ability to influence the passing game more than trumps that.
Shamar Stephen, Defensive Tackle, UConn
The Steelers need to address the depth along their defensive line—in particular, at nose tackle. There are some nice players on the roster, but no one who jumps off the page as a star, and that limited the defense all season.
UConn defensive tackle Shamar Stephen is a highly underrated prospect. At 6'5" and 313 pounds, he's a huge player with lots of room to grow. There's no reason to think his potential isn't somewhere in the 340-350-pound range, making him an ideal nose tackle candidate.
This pick qualifies as a best-case scenario because Stephen's size and ability to play multiple spots along the defensive line will make him a hot commodity. The Steelers would be very fortunate to get him at this juncture.